I happened to pick up Samuelson’s Foundations a couple of years ago in the Northwestern University Library.  We do not read it anymore and get our PhD training from Mas-Colell, Whinston and Green.  So, I’d never picked it up and I was shocked by how much of modern microeconomics was already in Foundations.  Everything from the revealed preference paradigm to consumer theory, producer theory etc etc….and he continued to make huge contributions throughout his life.

On top of all that, I’m visiting MIT Economics this year.  Paul Samuelson built the department and its culture:

“Despite his celebrated accomplishments, Mr. Samuelson preached and practiced humility. The M.I.T. economics department became famous for collegiality, in no small part because no one else could play prima donna if Mr. Samuelson refused the role, and, of course, he did. Economists, he told his students, as Churchill said of political colleagues, “have much to be humble about.” “

It is all true.  Just looking around the lunchroom on Wednesdays you are awed by the company.  And then you are charmed by the friendliness and collegiality.  Also, there is a laser-like focus on training the next generation of great economists and this shared mission creates the atmosphere of collegiality.  Paul Samuelson studied the free-rider problem in public good production but he knew how to solve it.  His work will live not only in his papers but also in the institution that he built.